Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Art of Misrepresentation or The Fable of the Bees

A Facebook status caught my eye recently as one of my cyber friends had just had the rather unpleasant experience of witnessing what they called the "ugly side" of social media on Twitter. By this, it turned out, they meant abuse and misrepresentation. Unfortunately, the Internet is often Janus-faced. And we are often like those spectators in the ancient amphitheatre enjoying the spectacle, though we pretend otherwise to ourselves. But all this is nothing new, because people, essentially, are not new creatures by any means. The methods of communication may have altered, but the communicators very much remain in a similar state.

Bernard Mandeville, an early eighteenth-century Dutch physician and writer living in London, is an interesting historical case. The very misrepresentation and slandering of his works by the Church of England at the time was so highly sophisticated that the malice is often mistaken for his own political and ethical ideas by future historians today. In Mandeville's case, it certainly worked out okay in the long run as he is considered a pioneering liberal reformer. Not bad for a strict Calvinist who believed that most people were evil and destined ultimately for Hell.

I have myself been on the receiving end of the "ugly side" of social media and have watched with interest narratology worthy of the Brothers Grimm. It is like watching a badly-wigged puppet of yourself being dragged into the middle of the amphitheatre and made by someone who has actually never seen you in person. You consider informing the owner of the amphitheatre that you are indeed not quite that badly wigged, but, no doubt blinded by the spectacle and the roar of the animalistic crowds, they seem unable all of sudden to distinguish the difference between a puppet and the person actually sitting next to them (with or without the bad-hair day). Those who sew and weave the puppet together are certainly not contextualists. Social media, for those unaware and reading the texts, de-contextualises by its very mode of communication and allows different narratives to evolve that often take on a surprising, but quite blurry, authority. This may have something to do with the "reality" of the written word that so controls our animistic minds still. And those who are sucked into a new narrative are as interesting as those who generate them.

The fascinating aspect of this, and something perhaps the puppet masters are unaware of, is that it is art - a created object as much as Art History. It is worthy of exhibition in order to "fold in" the process of exhibition. The future of course never makes its mind up on these misrepresentations, because it is itself a continual misrepresentation. For it is the present creating its past that generates a future. Much like a Facebook status actually.                    

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.